The film delves into the commonalities of all people, not a stereotypical grouping of people.
OThis film was briefly filmed in 1938 to remember vacation trips to Poland circulating the web, motivating a book, and recently expanded into a 69-minute film to be screened virtually this month by the Festival from the Sundance movie.
The expressive milestones resulted from chance finds followed by determined research and connected families descended from residents of a small town, Nasielsk, where the three-minute clip of the townspeople was filmed a year before the Nazis decimated the Jewish population from the city.
Maurice Chandler, 97, who splits his time between Michigan and Florida, was one of the youngsters in the snippet noticed on the web by his granddaughter, Marcy Rosen of Bloomfield Hills, who recalled the first photos of family as she recognized her grandfather. His observation led to vital resources to identify the people shown so their stories could be told.
New York’s Glenn Kurtz found the film – directed by his late grandfather, David Kurtz – at his parents’ Florida home in 2009. The clip was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and put online as one of the avenues Kurtz eventually used to find the material written in Three minutes in Poland: discovering a lost world in a family film from 1938, published in 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Bianca Stigter, a Dutch cultural historian and critic, also caught a glimpse of the short while browsing the web, and she became intrigued by the title and fascinated by the moving images. She then led the narration of close-ups and montages for Three minutes — one lengthening, which was given pride of place at festivals en route to theaters.
“One of the things that has been so profound for me in this whole story is something that I never imagined would happen, and that was the relationships that developed as a result of that and the connections with people” , said Kurtz, who remains close to the Chandler family and other Nasielsk families have organized downward trips to the city and continue to attend film festivals to observe the emotional reactions of the public to the film Stigter.
“I think Bianca approached the film in a very similar spirit to what I felt in my book,” he said. “The main questions were who these people are and what happened to them as individuals even though it is ultimately not possible to put together all the information.”
Kurtz, who teaches at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and taught at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, had traveled extensively to find authentic ancestral records.
“It’s amazing to have my grandfather’s souvenir travel film on the screen at the film festival, and I’m amazed at how his images touch people in such a profound way,” said Kurtz. “It’s amazing, something miraculous for me.”
Reactions to the clip and film narrated by Helena Bonham Carter affect Kurtz most deeply because they focus on individuals, far beyond any statistics. The film delves into the commonalities of all people, not a stereotypical grouping of people.
“I wanted to find a way to [the original film] last longer and keep these people in the present somehow,” Stigter said during a screening at DOC NYC, considered America’s biggest documentary film festival, where she recounted his immediate reaction to watching the vacation clip.
“I wanted to pay attention to the people we see and find out as much as possible about them,” she said. “We built it piece by piece. We used it as an archaeological tool.
Stigter, who reached out to Kurtz and researched the contents of his book, made a point of visiting those with Nasielsk heritage to help get the narrative information done without going beyond the three-minute visuals.
Some research was done during a weekend at the Bloomfield Hills home of Evelyn Rosen, Chandler’s daughter, and Kurtz joined the group.
“She and Glenn spent many hours interviewing my father,” said Rosen, who visited Nasielsk with her father and later with a group of 50 people found through Kurtz’s research. “At one point they interviewed me, and they interviewed my daughter. Bianca felt compelled to extend the film because everyone you see is so happy and carefree, and it was so wonderful to see their smiling faces.
While the Chandler family had a remote preview of the film ahead of its festival release, Rosen and her daughter also made their way to the Toronto International Film Festival for a public screening.
“I saw it there in a polished, finished version after spending so many hours going through the soundtrack with my dad trying to identify people,” Rosen said. “I appreciate what Bianca has done [with what she learned].
“I thought the narration made the film impressive. Using a well-known actress as the voice of the narration made it more appropriate and acceptable to a wider audience.
Although David Kurtz left his Polish hometown long before the Nazis came to power and died before the birth of his grandson, Glenn, his memory will live on through artistic recognition. Stigter keeps him “in the present” by putting his name in his film’s credits for doing the camera work.
Three minutes – A lengthening can be seen from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, January 24 and from 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 26 to 10 a.m. on Thursday, January 27. $20. Glenn Kurtz and Bianca Stigter will do a Zoom Q&A after the Jan. 24 premiere screening. All movies must be started within the time limit, and then you have five hours to finish them. bit.ly/3qxDWR3. To see a link jn 2014 story, go to bit.ly/3r6EVq4.